After being held to a shutout loss against Preston North End on Monday, The Potters now sit at 18th on the table with 30 points. To make matters worse, Stoke City’s latest goalless loss now makes it two matches in a row in which the club couldn’t find the back of the net.
Prior to Stoke City’s last two 1-0 losses, the team had scored exactly two goals in three straight matches going back to the World Cup restart. Now, those numbers don’t necessarily scream attacking juggernaut. But nonetheless scoring two goals a match is most of the time a winning recipe.
If you then add in Burnley’s and PNE’s defensive record (Burnley 25 goals against & Preston North End 26 goals against), on the surface there doesn’t seem to be an issue with Stoke City’s attack, right?
Maybe, not so fast. For the most part Stoke City have been inconsistent in attack this season (and really all other phases of play). And even with The Potters recent uptick in production in attack recently, the underline numbers and their last two results spell the true story of how Stoke City have performed with the ball.
Which is a team that needs to find a new solution or solutions to their lack of goals and lack of attacking output.
Overperforming and Underperforming xG
As we always say here at “All Stoked Up”, true stats are never a bad thing. Meaning, actual goals scored are always going to be a welcomed sight for any club. But as we’ve also written, underlying data or data analytics should also not be ignored.
In fact, data analytics should be followed very closely. That includes even when things are going well for a club in attack or defensively. And look no further than Stoke City’s latest run of goals and the underlying data to tell why both should be followed closely.
Going back to the World Cup restart The Potters xG (expected goals) numbers read like this, 1.0, 0.8, 2.8, 0.6, and 0.8 per FBref. If you go back two more matches in November, Stoke City also put up a 0.8 and 0.6 xG number in those matches.
At the risk of causing you to click away from the article, we’ll try to not throw too many more numbers at you. But the point stands that Stoke City’s overall xG numbers aren’t very great or even good. Most of the time lately they’re very poor actually.
What that all equals is a team that has gotten lucky in some matches in attack. Especially recently with their two goal outputs — Now to be fair, Stoke City did put up a 2.8 xG number against Rotherham United. Plus, prior to their last seven matches, The Potters had actually underperformed their expected goals data.
But no matter how you slice it, the point remains true that Stoke City need to find a more consistent spark upfront in attack. Whether it be their overperformed xG numbers as of late, or their underperforming numbers earlier this season, The Potters need to line-up their actual production and analytical numbers more consistently.
Time to Dial up a New No. 9?
How do you line up those two things more consistently mentioned above? The answer could be in the club’s tactics, but it also lies in finding a consistent number 9. And for The Potters, the team has desperately needed a consistent center-forward all season.
Most successful clubs will trot out one or two, maybe three center-forwards all season. For Stoke City though, the club has started a variety of different striking duos for most of the season. That’s something that needs to change eventually for Stoke City.
The good news for Alex Neil, is there could be a solution within the club already. His name is Emre Tezgel — Tezgel has been lighting it up for Stoke City’s U21’s this season and has been banging on the door for first team minutes.
Well, that time could be now to give him those minutes or more minutes up-front. Given Stoke City’s place on the table and how inconsistent they’ve been in attack this season, it can’t hurt at all.
Even if Tezgel is still young and possibly not ready for the next level, there’s no time like the present to see if Tezgel can be a future star for Stoke City. Or see how ready Tezgel is to contribute at the first team level.
If Neil and company don’t want to rush Tezgel along though, that’s understandable. But if that’s the case, Neil might need to add someone in the upcoming transfer window. Because the bottom line is, The Potters need to be better in attack moving forward.